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Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax, Book 1 | [Robert J. Sawyer]

Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax, Book 1

Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth. A Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleo-anthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language problem and much else is a mini-computer, called a Companion, implanted in the brain of every Neanderthal. But it can't help his fellow scientist back in his world, Adikor Huld, when the authorities charge Adikor with his murder.
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Publisher's Summary

Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth. A Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleo-anthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language problem and much else is a mini-computer, called a Companion, implanted in the brain of every Neanderthal. A computerized guardian spirit, however, doesn't eliminate cross-cultural confusion; permanent male-female sexuality, rape, and overpopulation are all alien to Ponter. Nor can it help his housemate and fellow scientist back in his world, Adikor Huld, when the authorities charge Adikor with his murder.

BONUS AUDIO: Author Robert J. Sawyer explains why Ponter Boddit is his favorite among all the characters he's created.

Hunt and gather: listen to more in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.

©2002 by Robert J. Sawyer; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 2003

"Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Cathleen Clifton, NJ, United States 02-13-15
    Cathleen Clifton, NJ, United States 02-13-15 Member Since 2011
    ratings
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    64
    5
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    "Worth the credit"

    I enjoyed the book. Some very intriguing ideas. A lot of people complained about the rape scene, but it wasn't that bad. Brief and not too detailed. Not enough to detract from the book over all in my opinion.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    liraun Austin, Tx United States 02-05-15
    liraun Austin, Tx United States 02-05-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Worth a listen"

    An interesting story idea. Stays entertaining most of the way through. There are some slow parts but overall it is well written and well performed. It was compelling enough for me to buy the next book in the series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jacob Wilson Alalëa 01-09-15
    Jacob Wilson Alalëa 01-09-15
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    5
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    "Unique & fascinating"

    A very unique take on the evolution of choice & parallel worlds. I can wait to read the next volume Humans.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elaine Sumas, WA, United States 09-15-14
    Elaine Sumas, WA, United States 09-15-14 Member Since 2015

    I'm 66. I've read Audiobooks now for 6 years. After an assault, I had minor brain damage and couldn't read. Audible got me back to books

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Science, Mystery, and Love"
    What made the experience of listening to Hominids the most enjoyable?

    This first book of the Neanderthal trilogy plunges you into the action right away, presenting well defined characters.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Hominids?

    In the first book, the second lead character's trial for murder keeps the attention.


    What about Jonathan Davis and Robert J. Sawyer ’s performance did you like?

    Robert's story is science at it's best, mystery at it's most compelling, and love at it's strongest. Jonathan's narration is, as ever, highly attuned to the senses, easily creating the range of characters.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    During the conversation between Ponter and Mary the exploring of their two worlds is charged with the clash of mental and social viewpoints.


    Any additional comments?

    The Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy is the reason I like Science Fiction. The parallel worlds story is engaging. The characters are people you wish you knew. And the science is cutting edge and full of possibilities.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 04-19-14
    SamanthaG Marietta GA 04-19-14 Member Since 2010

    SamanthaG

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    5
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    "Sophomoric"

    I did finish listening - the story was not boring. But the dialog was rather clunky and awkward to listen to, especially between Mary and Ponter. Lines from Gone With The Wind, ET, and The Wizard of Oz were shamelessly borrowed. The ending, even for SciFI, stretches credibility to the breaking point and I'm happy to leave the story at its end, though there is a sequel, which is previewed and advertised at the end of this recording.

    The narrators were good, though my usual criticism of males affecting female voices applies here - the females sound pretty much like, well, men trying to sound like women.

    The names of the Neanderthals didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason - did they all have surnames and if so, how were they derived? I didn't look up the characters to see their names in writing, but I enjoyed hearing them as I imagined them - Ponter's daughters, Jasmine, Jazz-bo, Jazmo or Jazno, and Meg-a-Meg, and many whose names I just couldn't figure out at all.

    I was annoyed at the continued put-down of human history/society and the elevation of the noble (and brilliant!) Neanderthal society. Of course there are things in human history that merit our shame, but I don't understand the purpose of the comparison in this book and its creation of a fictional "perfect" sentient species.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elisabeth Carey 02-24-14
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    "Entertaining if sometimes frustrating"

    Ponter Boddit is a theoretical physicist working with his professional and life partner--his man-mate--Adikor on a quantum computer, deep in the bowels of a nickel mine, when something goes horribly wrong and, from Adikor's perspective, Ponter disappears.

    From Ponter's perspective, he's suddenly in a tankful of water in a large, dark room.

    Ponter and Adikor are Neanderthals, from a world where H. sapiens sapiens died out, and H. sapiens neanderthalis survived to become the dominant species.

    Now Ponter is stuck in our world, where he emerged into the heavy water tank of a neutrino detector deep in a nickel mine in northern Ontario. Reuben Montego, a medical doctor, and Mary Vaughn, a very distinguished geneticist who has done work on recovered Neanderthal DNA, are two of his major allies in this world, but he's facing a huge challenge, building a new life for himself, isolated from everything he's ever known. And since Neanderthal society is much lower-density, the total Neanderthal population much lower, and they never developed agriculture but instead have systemitized hunter-gatherer food collection and distribution, modern industrial civilization with a population in the billions, is very tough for him to quickly absorb.

    Meanwhile, back home in the Neanderthal world, the woman-mate of Ponter's late woman-mate has accused Adikor of murdering Ponter. She's not deterred by the lack of a body; Adikor was the only person there when he disappeared, Adikor has a volatile temper, and Adikor, to her way of thinking, must have been jealous of Ponter's greater prominence in their shared profession.

    Also, Adikor can't explain quantum physics in a way that makes sense to an adjudicator who was apparently never required to study any science.

    There's a lot to like about this book. The science is interesting, though not as new and startling as it was in 2002, and the Neanderthal society is really, really interesting. And who can dislike a world where woolly mammoths still roam North America?

    But I do have some problems with it, too.

    I won't deal with Mary Vaughn's rape and its aftermath, as others have done that at some length.

    It's more than a mite annoying that the contrast between our society and Ponter's is largely used as an opportunity for one-sided criticism of ours. H. sapiens hunted most of the megafauna to extinction. (This is no longer believed to be true.) H. sapiens wiped out H. neanderthalis. (This is no longer believed to be true, and with another decade of research, we now know there was interbreeding among Sapiens, Neanderthals, and Denisovans.) We still have violent crime. We do not successfully feed all of our very large population. We pollute the air. And, oh dear, we have religion.

    What's interesting is that Ponter assumes without question that H. sapiens wiped out H. neanderthalis in our world, and H. sapiens wiped out H. sapiens in his world. It would seem that there's another possibility, especially since the means by which the Neanderthals have effectively culled violent behavior from their genome could not possibly have begun until they had advanced scientifically enough to reason out the genetics.

    What's annoying is the discussion of religion between Ponter and Mary. Mary's a Catholic as well as a world-class geneticist, and might reasonably be expected to have a slightly more sophisticated understanding of religion. It's treated as an unquestionable fact that religious believers believe that religion, belief in God, is a necessary precursor of morality. That's a belief that is troublesome in many ways as well as demonstrably false. But having been raised Catholic myself, albeit in a different country than Mary was, I was taught that, on the contrary, the moral impulse comes first. "If anyone says "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar, because he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20 (English Standard Version) In short, that the innate moral impulse is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for belief in God.

    Robert J. Sawyer is a smart guy, and knows how to do research. Perhaps he didn't realize he needed to do research on this. Certainly, if he had incorporated this view of the relationship between religion and morality, as taught by the religion Mary is said to believe in, it would have made Mary's position in that discussion rather stronger--perhaps uncomfortably so, for the agenda Mr. Sawyer seems to have been pursuing.

    Now, it's not that he portrays the Neanderthals as perfect. By no means. It's just that Neanderthal failings seem to be matters of individual character, while Sapiens failings are shown as systemic and pervasive, despite the fine characters of Ponter's friends in this universe.

    I think the ideological blinders do weaken the story and the book overall, but I like Ponter, Adikor, and their friends on both sides of the portal, and overall I enjoyed the book.

    Recommended with reservations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer 02-20-14
    Jennifer 02-20-14
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    "I feel like I'm reading a childrens book..."
    What would have made Hominids better?

    Said Ponter, said Adicore, said Ponter, said Adicore.. and the simplest of language.

    Either act the reading or read it please! The laid back tone of the reader during intense moments helps make the already simple and barely descriptive writing even less believable. The sudden acting in a few places and not others is frustrating.
    The characters are simple, plastic, so surface, no depth of human experience expressed here.

    Maybe its because I just finished the Game of Thrones series, searingly written, and masterfully read.

    It was painful enough that I only got 1.5 hours through - maybe it became incredible and rich but I couldn't stand it any longer.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Robert J. Sawyer again?

    No


    Would you be willing to try another one of Jonathan Davis and Robert J. Sawyer ’s performances?

    no


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 02-18-14
    Thomas 02-18-14
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    "I enjoyed this book!"
    What did you love best about Hominids?

    I really liked the wide variety of characters and viewpoints. Canada was an interesting setting choice. I cared about the characters and I thought the science was neat too.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    julienne 01-24-14
    julienne 01-24-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Interesting, but enh"

    This is an interesting concept, but I wouldn't read this again, and I'm not recommending it to anyone I know. Sawyer spends too much time preaching about how his version of neanderthal utopia is superior, and every one of these repetitious little sermons interrupts the narrative and takes the reader right out of the story. On top of that, most of the characters are completely flat and static. With only three or so well developed characters, the plots seem contrived, and those three are the only ones who are affected by the story. Everyone else is robots. It's as if Sawyer had this thought--hey, what if it's a belief in an afterlife that makes society suck--and instead of taking the time to explore that, he tried to write a persuasive essay in the form of a story. There are better speculative fiction explorations of why society is flawed, and I don't see enough original, compelling content to make this a better choice than the others.

    Also, heads up: if you were taught to pronounce neanderthal like -tall, then prepare to cringe every time the reader says it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Tulsa, OK, United States 02-11-13
    David Tulsa, OK, United States 02-11-13

    Arts & Sciences is what I am about. I have no talent for business. I am an amateur photographer with contest wins and places. Work in a hospital lab. Married 41 years.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A skilled author produces a gem."
    What did you love best about Hominids?

    The characters were well drawn. The story line was very satisfying. There were no dead spots.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story back on Neanderthal earth was quite dramatic.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Then Ponder crashed the trial.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Be ware your assumptions.


    Any additional comments?

    There is no evidence that Neanderthals had pet dogs.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Philippa
    UK
    4/22/09
    Overall
    "Really Good"

    I had no real preconceptions about this title, I'd never heard of the writer and only got it because I have an interest in Neanderthals - but I wasn't disappointed at all! I'm not really interested in science fiction in general, Star Trek and Star Wars leave me cold! But this is really a human interest story, looking at an outsiders view of our humanity, as well as exploring what our lives might be like if our ancestors had made different descisions - for example what would we be like without religion?

    I thoroughly reccomend; it is gripping, thrilling and really gets you going and wanting more! I'd want to carry on listening even when I was not driving or down the gym!

    The thing that got me was that there was loads of science in it, real detailed information that was accurate and relevant to the story and that thoroughly interested me.

    The world Ponter comes from is explained in vivid detail and you want to go there and see it for yourself - however, when Ponter asks Mary, Louise and Reuben about our lack of conservation and how we've destroyed our habitat it really makes you question humanity's motives and mistakes. If you want to feel positve about your species this is probably not the best book - if you want a bit of science fiction and romance this is for you!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • lesley
    chesterfield, United Kingdom
    7/30/10
    Overall
    "most enjoyable"

    This book was much more interesting than the title lead me to expect. How the neanderthals structured their society gave me much food for thought.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jon
    herefordUnited Kingdom
    12/10/09
    Overall
    "Fascinating"

    I like science - not people. I like ideas too - not fantasies. I especially alternative histories. And this story absolutely gripped me with the brilliant way it asks questions, using science and the excellently conceived alternative world of the Neanderthals. It also explores people and their issues - so you might like it too! Fascinating attack on religion with a few novel ideas to interweave makes this an entertaining yet thought-provoking listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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